Not wasting the waiting

Wise words on not wasting the waiting by Mark Romanek, director of iconic movie videos (lately that jolly one by Taylor Swift; make sure you watch Hurt by Johnny Cash) and who has indeed transitioned to films like One Hour Photo and Never Let Me Go:

I always really wanted to be a feature film director, but that wasn’t coming together. So I said, well, maybe if I just do this and really focus on it, I’ll learn more about myself as a person, and I’d have more stories to tell, be able to just grow as a human being, and be ready to make a movie. Because I might know a thing or two, and really learn the craft by getting to do all these different aesthetics … and I just really embraced it and tried to get really good at it.

— from a documentary on Romanek here

By the grace of God, a research paper and presentation was somehow accomplished this past week. By the grace of God, my teaching of Biblical Hebrew, part one, will be roundly completed this coming week. By the grace of God, unexpected adventures are afoot the rest of November. By the end of all this, I will have truly ‘levelled up’ in ways beyond what I could’ve imagined at the beginning of the year.

The Philosophical Hermeneutics paper was a mountain I had to go back down and climb up again so many times, and the summit was so impossibly high. The teaching of Hebrew was a lesson in hard work, humility and the huge difference that a mentor makes. And the upcoming adventures — well! Will tell if I survive them.

But these all feel like steps and stations; I’m on the way to somewhere or something else. I’m growing up, I’m gathering stories, I’m getting ready to … (blank to be filled in by the rest of my allotted days). In the meantime, much maturation is needed and to come. Pray for a sister!

Yeah yeah yeah

So Gary Chapman’s concept of the Five Love Languages may be a little too … exclusive. But I think it’s always good to be that bit more self-aware and we shouldn’t expect broad brushstrokes to colour our every nuance anyway. So just for the record, here are mine — the top three — with explication from the official site:

1. Quality Time — cos how else do I know you’re for real?

In Quality Time, nothing says “I love you” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there — with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby — makes you feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed activities, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful. Whether it’s spending uninterrupted time talking with someone or doing activities together, you deepen your connection with others through sharing time.

2. Acts of Service — definitely cultivated by the expectations and example of my parents!

Can helping with homework really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most wants to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter. When others serve you out of love (and not obligation), you feel truly valued and loved.

3. Words of Affirmation — needless to say … for someone who grew up with her nose in more books than flowers.

Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love  language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important — hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten. You thrive on hearing kind and encouraging words that build you up.

You can suss out your own lurve languages here: Let me know what they are? It’ll mean you spent quality time to give me this act of service that will result in words of affirmation …

God keeps his promises

Here’s one to cling to in an age of tyrants, beheadings and other nauseating defilements of the divine image, at a time when the blood of a family of eight can be dashed against their open Bible because their deepest loyalty was upward-bound:

Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

— Matthew 13:40–43 NRSV

Ye olde homiletical garden

IMG_4286My approach to preparing a sermon has been that I must never assume I will ever get to preach again. That’s a bit of a cop-out, though. It ignores the fact that we must always seek to improve, and that also means accepting that this next time mustn’t be our last or best attempt at faithfully digging out first century questions and bravely essaying twenty-first century answers.

In any case, thinking in such a linear fashion — this time, next time, the time after that — won’t be too helpful if you don’t have the luxury of being a full-time student and your deadlines are as fixed as the passage of days.

All that preamble is to preface this bit of ‘preaching lore’ I came across — hope it helps my fellow hatchlings:

How Much Advance Planning Should We Do for Our Sermons?

Preachers vary widely in their planning habits. Some preachers have well-organised minds, and with the aid of a calendar and a lectionary they plan their preaching months in advance. A few even take a week or so of study leave to sketch out a general preaching scheme for the coming year. Most of us are less disciplined, beginning the next sermon only after the present one has been delivered.

The best wisdom is that every preacher can be actively at work on five or six sermons at once. A good method is to create separate file folders for, say, the next half-dozen sermons. The biblical texts should be chosen and enough of the exegetical work done on these texts to know the general direction of each of the sermons. The preacher can then browse through these files periodically to keep the upcoming sermon themes in mind. Clippings from the newspaper, quotes from novels, pastoral experiences, and other ideas can then be placed into the files so that, when the time comes to create a sermon, its folder will already contain some working material. As soon as a sermon is complete, a new file is made to take its place at the end of the line. Older homileticians called this method a “homiletical garden”. The big task is in setting up the system, since exegetical work on several sermons is required. Once the garden is planted, however, it can be tilled and cultivated as a matter of routine.

— The Witness of Preaching (2nd ed.) by Thomas G. Long (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005), pp. 234–235.

Can you eat your way home again?

the lunchbox of lurve89. The Lunchbox (2013) — Well, Irrfan Khan has cemented his place as one of my favourite actors ever, and not only in the Bollywood sphere. (You simply must check him out in Darjeeling Limited, by the way. And the movie itself is certainly worth your time!) Hats off to Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Nimrat Kaur too. Bravo and brava! It is exciting to think there are actors of such calibre to look out for.

This is a slow, arthousey movie compared to the likes of the usual Bollywood fare (that being said, there’s an Unseen Auntie who’s way more entertaining than any Item Boy/Girl), complete with an enigmatic ending, so you might feel a wee bit lost with the relative realism and the pensive pacing. I didn’t quite get the classic romantic comedy I’d hoped for, but what could I have hoped for, with a married woman and a retiring widower? But the time doth passes amiably, and oh, the characters, they do worm their way into your affections with how pluckily they manage their lives of quiet desperation.

Yes, how does one manage a life of quiet desperation? In two ways, according to The Lunchbox. First, through sheer good humour — I’ve never had a laugh gurgle up from so deep within; I practically had to force myself to stop laughing beyond *that* scene by the street between Saajan and Shaikh. No smug slapstick in this film, only vintage dry humour — I have discovered that I like drollness very much indeed. The second way of managing is through sheer good food, specifically home cooking — the scenes of preparing and savouring cannot fail to inspire, even if it were just to slap together something simple for someone you love.

And maybe a third way of managing would be to take the time to relish good movies with good friends — thank you, dear Sayesha, for dragging me out for this, and a Mad Maharani for reminding me about it.

Raising righteousness

A man is born into this world with only a tiny spark of goodness in him. The spark is God, it is the soul; the rest is ugliness and evil, a shell. The spark must be guarded like a treasure, it must be nurtured, it must be fanned into flame. It must learn to seek out other sparks, it must dominate the shell. Anything can be a shell, Reuven. Anything. Indifference, laziness, brutality, and genius. Yes, even a great mind can be a shell and choke the spark. …

I went away and cried to the Master of the Universe, ‘What have you done to me? A mind like this I need for a son? A heart I need for a son, a soul I need for a son, compassion I want from my son, righteousness, mercy, strength to suffer and carry pain, that I want from my son, not a mind without a soul!’ …

One learns of the pain of others by suffering one’s own pain, he would say, by turning inside oneself, by finding one’s own soul. And it is important to know of pain, he said. It destroys our self-pride, our arrogance, our indifference towards others. It makes us aware of how frail and tiny we are and of how much we must depend upon the Master of the Universe.

From The Chosen by Chaim Potok (New York: Ballantine, 1967)

One reason I love this book so much is this final scene about the heart of a father for his son. I felt as though I’d caught a glimpse of God’s heart for us, and I was greatly moved — that a father’s plans and purposes for his child would centre on the condition of his soul; that our Father God could be actively seeking the good of our souls. How futile it seems, then, to be anxious about how high you fly or how low you go, when the true and final assessment is not about such success or failure; when you have a God who cares about you, genuinely cares, and beckons you to a hope and a future.

Seven days till graduation

And a hundred and twenty days since my last post!

Since then, my final semester for my Master of Divinity has more or less ended, a goodly number of fears and hopes have been fulfilled and abandoned, and I’ve stopped shoehorning sets of threes into my sentences (oops).

Last night was the graduation dinner for the School of Theology (English), and it was a good night, thanks to the many hands lent. The graduands were asked to share a photo and a few words on how that photo expressed a memory, a thanksgiving or a testimony they have from their time in SBC. I didn’t manage to send mine in time, so here it is for posterity:


Now as to why — on my first day in school (which was literally the first time I’d stepped foot there), there wasn’t a single soul I knew. I found myself looking for a table during tea break, while talking to God (naturally, in such a situation?!): “You’ll take care of me just like you took care of me in Hong Kong, right? You’ll send me friends, won’t you? Friends who will be true.”

Well, the next thing I heard was loud (OK, roisterous) laughter coming from the table I was approaching, one with a chair or two empty. And the peals of joy were rolling from none other than SChng. (I remember JChen and DHeo at the table too, along wth JWoo.) She did indeed become a friend, true and honest even when I fail to be. She, and sweet, concentric circles of others. (I and you know who y’all are.)

(On the same day, I also discovered that a dear old secondary schoolmate had graduated from the same course recently — so thankful to the prayers and advice of ECheong. For example, “The class that prays together, graduates together.” A truth that cannot be overstated!)

Eh, so why this photo, again? Well, this egg tart and baked char siew bun represent the typical (OK, eternal) snacks served during tea breaks in SBC. (Sorry, not so eco-friendly are we, with the plastic fork …) Whenever I have this sweet-and-savoury combo in the canteen, I am reminded of God’s faithfulness in not bringing me to a place without his presence, showing that he is with me always by being incarnate through his children who bear his image and do his will (that is, heap burning coals on my head by being ever so kind when I am silly).

His children, my friends, with whom I have learnt to suffer with and depend upon, even as they have had to tolerate and trust me. His children, who love me and pray for me, in SBC and beyond.

I am so thankful to you, Lord, and to them. Amen.